The Age of Reason, The Gothic Fiction

1. The beginning of the 18th century in England meant not only a peaceful period in English history, but also a new reading public - the newly-educated middle class. What were their reading preferences, leading to the birth of the novel?

           A. Extravagant plots and unknown settings promising endless adventures

           B. Realistic depiction of the everyday life, including reflections of moral values

           C. Lonely individuals struggling to comprehend their feelings

2. From literary point of view, what was regarded as the most important theme in literature?

           A. Society, reason (and literary form)

           B. An individual, emotions (and the content of a novel)

           C. Reason, an individual

3. As the society wanted to be informed about everyday life (including politics), daily papers and periodicals appeared for the first time. Who is the father of the periodical?

           A. Jonathan Swift, also the author of Gulliver's Travels

           B. Alexander Pope, also known for his satire The Dunciad

           C. Daniel Defoe, popular for well-known book Robinson Crusoe

4. Talking about the fathers in the literary world, do you know the father of the first English novel? The writer who has influenced many other, such as French writer Flaubert or German Goethe and his book The Sorrows of Young Werther?

           A. Horace Walpole (The Castle of Otranto)

           B. Charles Dickens (The Pickwick Papers)

           C. Samuel Richardson (Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded)

5. Henry Fielding is considered to be the greatest novelist of the 18th century. Which literary form does he use in his book Tom Jones?

             A. Picaresque novel - the hero of a low social class is constantly on a journey

             B. Realistic novel - emphasizes the realistic depiction, resulting in long, detailed descriptions

             C. Historical novel - the story has (shockingly) a historical setting

6. Interestingly, the first form of experimental novel (which was mainly popular at the beginning of the 20th century) dates back to the Age of Reason! The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy is full of blank chapters, abstract drawings and depictions of the narrator's consciousness. Who wrote it?

            A. Laurence Sterne

            B. Ann Radcliff

            C. William Blake

7. Gothic fiction! Forget Twilight and go back in time to the Middle Ages, dark castles, ghosts and emotions full of terrors - the key elements of the Gothic novel (1760's - 1820's). Who are the famous representatives of this genre?

            A. Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron

            B. Mary Shelley, Ann Radcliffe, Horace Walpole

            C. Percy Bysshe Shelley, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Correct Answers (with some additional explanation)


2.A (Reason is an obvious theme in the literature dated back to the beginning of the 18th century. However, the perfection of the literary form was equally significant as the Age of Reason was interested in the classical Greek and Roman past. The word "classical" resonates the writers' need to perfect the form of their written works. Furthermore, society as a whole was more important than individual's feelings - the exact opposite of the Romanticism, which followed after.)

3.C (Daniel Defoe might be regarded by many as the father of the novel. But that would not be entirely accurate as some critics suggest that Robinson Crusoe lacks the unity of plot and the hero does not entirely reflect human nature. However, in 1704 Defoe started his first periodical The Review, which let to creating many more after. Therefore, he has the title of the father of the periodical. Alexander Pope is worth mentioning as he was one of the few poets during the Age of Reason. Irish Jonathan Swift criticizes in his satirical book Gulliver's Travels various themes such as corrupted society, human nature or the use of weapons.)

4.C (Not that many people know, and even less of them have read anything written by the father of the novel and the author of the book Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. However, this epistolary novel (a novel written in letters) with long descriptions was highly popular back in the day. Horace Walpole wrote the gothic fiction, while Dickenson came much later, writing books full of social criticism.)

5.A (Another famous picaresque novel is Don Quixote by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes.)

6.A (I tried to read the book, but it is not easy at all. More importantly, Sterne's writing style had a profound impact on the writers at the beginning of the 20th century, like James Joyce or Virginia Woolf, both experimenting with the traditional form of the novel.)

7.B (With his book The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole kicked off the gothic novel. Mary Shelley wrote the famous masterpiece Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus - do not forget that Frankenstein is not the actual Monster, on the contrary, he is its creator. Ann Radcliffe wrote The Mysteries of Udolpho - providing a logical explanation of all the mysterious elements employed throughout the book. By the way, C is composed of romantic poets who will be mentioned in the upcoming quiz...)

Reading Tips:

Daniel Defoe - Robinson Crusoe - this novel stirred my emotions. In certain situations, Crusoe turns out to be unbelievably selfish and self-absorbed, sometimes even racist (when he talks about his loyal friend Friday). But I would recommend reading it as it is something completely different compared to all its adaptations for children you might have read before.

Mary Shelley - Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus - before starting the novel, I would suggest doing some background research, including the history of the book and its symbolism. And yes, some parts can appear to be extremely long to read, but once again, after finishing it, you will be surprised what the original Frankenstein's story looks like (yes, forget the modern movie version of Frankenstein with Daniel Radcliffe and James).